In the movie “The Pursuit of Happiness,” Will Smith’s character, Chris Gardner, is a homeless, single father trying to break into the world of stock trading. Based on the true story of the plight of the real Chris Gardner, the movie chronicles Gardner’s determination in making an impression on the powers-that-be at Dean Witter to secure the only highly coveted paid junior stock trader position at the company, beating out scores of other Ivy League-educated interns. Gardner, who was homeless at the time, never revealed to anyone in the company that he would often sleep in bus station bathrooms with his toddler-aged son. He later went on to become a millionaire, running his own stock trading company for many years. While perseverance and strength are central themes to the movie, there are also scenes where the belief of others in Gardner were evident. The movie reminds us of the importance of believing in others abilities and potential. My choice to highlight this movie connects with a recent experience of being given a chance. When my family and I moved to Platte City last spring, we opted to receive a subscription to this nifty local newspaper called The Platte County Citizen. We thought it was a neat publication that informed us about the county that we had just moved to. As I began to get more familiar with the paper each week, I thought, “It sure would be nice to have a column in this paper as a way to connect with the community.” By September, I had e-mailed Lee Stubbs introducing myself and expressing my interest in writing for the paper. As most editors (and newspaper owners) will tell you, they are very busy. So, I continued to reach out (harass? hound? bother?) to Lee with e-mails expressing my interest in becoming a newspaper columnist. It had secretly been a dream of mine for several years because I believe that journalism is an ideal medium to educate and inspire a community. Plus, as some of you may recall from reading my column a few weeks ago about receiving math tutoring from my father, words are definitely my friend while numbers are not. Eventually, Lee and I connected and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Citizen office. I appreciated his relaxed energy as we discussed our visions for a potential column. He invited me to publish a few introductory articles in special editions of the paper, and my feet were officially wet in the world of writing newspaper articles. The water felt good. It was meaningful to me that someone valued my writing enough to ink it on paper. Despite me staring at a large picture in Lee’s office during our meeting of the Missouri Tigers home football stadium while reluctantly confessing to him that I am a rabid Kansas Jayhawks fan, he apparently found enough appreciation for the spirit of fan rivalry to offer me the opportunity to write a regular column for the Citizen. We were newly acquainted, and I had no background, or “street cred” as a writer, columnist or journalist. How did he know that I could write, I mean, really write? Did he have faith that I would meet deadlines? Was he inviting a nightmare of having to edit every other sentence in my articles? The answer to these questions is simply that he didn’t know. He just saw someone, similar to the story of Chris Gardner, who had a passion and desire to achieve something meaningful to them. Whether it’s writing a bi-monthly column in a newspaper or trading stocks on Wall Street, everyone at some point in life needs a chance. As Lee told me when we met, he values people who have the “want to.” I appreciate his willingness to spot my “want to” and allowing me to develop my passion and skills as a writer. It’s often been said that people can spot something in others that they often possess themselves, and I believe this is the case with Lee. His ability to bring staff members to the Citizen who are passionate about journalism exists because he has been so motivated and invested in building the Citizen into a well-respected publication over the years. That’s “want to.” Many thanks to Lee for not only giving me a chance, but also for his dedication over the past few decades to the people and news of Platte County. Until next time, be well.
Diane Bigler is a licensed clinical social worker who lives in Platte City with her family. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.